TGIF: My “30 Going on 13” Moment

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On forgotten business cards, my Jambalaya family and sleeping in the backseat of a minivan.

I got a promotion at work last year. Not the kind that results in a corner office, prime parking spot and stock options. But the kind where you get a moderate raise, a fancy title, continue to do your old job (with the dream of a replacement—“soon”), work longer hours and get a fresh stack of business cards.

I find the practice of swapping business cards archaic and awkward. Much like a good handshake, handing out a business card is an art form. I lack the prerequisite swagger needed to hand them out with any semblance of credibility.

This guy has swagger:

In stark contrast, I’ve got a lot more of this going on:

When I’m not moonlighting as a sandwich consultant, I work with engineers. In my experience, most engineers consider non-engineers, an overhead cost, and “a suit”.

Now add the fact that: I’m female (minority), younger to my peers (inexperienced), a communication major (fluff degree) with work experience in TV broadcasting (condescending smirk). Let’s just say, the odds are stacked against me.

My business card is the neon stamp of approval that grants me access to this otherwise members-only club.

Without it, I’m basically toast. This is where my story begins.

___________________

On the eve of a business trip to Toronto, I was working late at the office. Seriously sleep-deprived, I eventually packed my bags to go home but had a sneaking suspicion I was forgetting something important.

You know where this is going …

At the tail end of my 1.5-hour commute home, it dawned on me: I’d forgotten to grab my business cards.

I was catching an early morning flight, still had to pack, do laundry and make crucial changes to a presentation. This (this!) lapse in planning was a boo-boo of epic proportions.

While I wanted to go into a “Jim Carrey-esque” meltdown, i.e. slamming my head into the steering wheel, I started crying angry defeated tears instead.

How could I forget to pack them after my boss reminded me? All this work on a presentation and I wasn’t going to make a professional first impression! Nobody wants to be on the team with the person who “ran out of business cards.”

7:30 pm

After raging crying on my driveway for three minutes, I walked into the kitchen where my parents were eating dinner. Afraid I was going to burst into tears, I avoided eye contact and rinsed out my lunch Tupperware in the sink.

“I forgot to grab my business cards,” I said in a monotone Terminator voice. “I really needed them for my trip.”

“Do you have any extra cards at home?” my mom asked.

I exhaled and nodded my head, “No.” I served myself a plate of food, then headed up to my room.

7:45 pm

Back in the kitchen. I was washing my empty plate, when my dad, who was now munching on a fistful of sweet sticky dates said, “If you want to pick up the cards, I can drive you.”

I looked up at him tentatively and said, “But it’s an hour-and-a-half away …”

Half-chewing he replied, “That’s okay. There won’t be any traffic this time of the night.”

“Are you sure … ?” my voice trailed off.

My mom who was clearing the dinner table urged, “Go get dressed.”

Just as I was about to climb into the minivan, I noticed my mom standing right behind me with a pillow and a blanket.

“Get in the backseat,” she said handing me the pillow and the blanket. “You can rest on the drive there.”

“The family is a haven in a heartless world.”
– Christopher Lasch

You Can Rest

As I climbed in the van, I felt my knees buckle and my lips quiver.

The words, “You can rest,” made my head spin.

Remember that movie “13 going on 30” where Jennifer Garner plays a game on her 13th birthday and wakes up as a 30-year-old woman? Well, this moment, was the exact opposite.

Here I was, an able-bodied 30-year-old woman, in scuffed sneakers, an oversized hoodie, whimpering in the backseat of my parents’ minivan with a blankie. For crying out loud!

First I was crying, because I love the relationship my parents share. They truly enjoy each other’s company–whether it’s going to buy a bag of mulch for the backyard, or driving their adult daughter to pick up business cards in the middle of the night.

Then I was crying, because I realized they had loved 30-year-old me for as many years. Thirty years of being bailed out, taken care of and consoled. Thirty years of encouraging me, protecting me and looking out for me. Thirty years of (metaphorically) leaving the light on for my prodigal heart.

Sure, sometimes their “encouragement” felt like pressure, “protection” felt like suffocation and “looking out for me” sounded an awful lot like paranoia. But the bottom line was that these people–my parents–love me. They would go barefoot to hell and back for me.

What about people who don’t have a loving family?

I was semi-hypnotized by the streetlights whizzing by, when I realized we were driving through Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), a.k.a. “the rough part” of town. Just outside the protected bubble of my minivan was screaming visual proof of poverty, drug use, prostitution, crime and violence.

In February, I was at the Justice Conference in Portland where I heard stories about lives that took a drastic turn for the worst because of emotionally unavailable parents.

Girls with parents who were caught up in numbing their own pain with alcohol, drugs or multiple sexual partners. Girls who had no one to call after running away from home, getting pregnant, date raped or overdosing. Girls who had no one to call from a gas station, bus stop or payphone.

So the girls went back to their:
… abusive boyfriends,
… pimps, and
… dealers.

They never stood a fighting chance.

A good friend often says, “When you have roots, you can have wings.” I need “the roots” of my family, who love me unconditionally “to have wings.” I needed a two-hour drive to grab my business cards in the middle of the night, so I could feel confident about giving a stellar presentation at work.

Driving through the DTES, I found my heart overflowing with gratitude for my mom and dad, who were happily chatting away, snacking on spicy fried peas in the front seat.

My family is a thick jambalaya of characters, who share food, bad jokes and the remote control. We celebrate birthdays, new jobs and great haircuts. We stand together in failure, heartbreak and buffet lineups. We sit through terrible high school plays, teary weddings and depressing waiting rooms. We parade around in our pajamas, talk with morning breath, tease each other, address fashion faux pas and wander through Walmart. We are fiercely protective, borderline codependent and wildly irrational when it comes to loving each other.  In a nutshell, their unconditional LOVE, gives me the courage to journey through the good, the beautiful and the downright ugly of LIFE.

____________________________________________________________

So, dear ones …

– Who cares about your rest?
– Who needs you to show up for them with a pillowcase and a blankie?

Love you more than a comforting bowl of Coconut Shrimp Soup and Lady Apple Cardamom Cake,
xoxo,
Teen

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis